China to launch nuclear orbiter to Neptune

Astronomers have not yet managed to consider Uranus and Neptune in all details. The clearest data available

humanity has information from NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, the only device that flew by the planet in 1986 and 1989.

The researchers note that the future mission isa very difficult task. The problem is that spacecraft flying far from the Sun cannot rely on solar energy, they need other sources to maintain a stable orbit and keep the instruments from freezing.

Radioisotope thermoelectric generators(RTG) were used in more than 30 missions to provide spacecraft with heat and fuel. They work by converting heat from the radioactive decay of a fuel, such as plutonium-238, into electricity. But to operate near Neptune, the probe would need more power from a nuclear fission reactor.

As conceived by Chinese scientists, the spacecraftweighing up to 3 thousand kg must be powered by a nuclear reactor. It will also carry four small satellites - two to study Neptune's atmosphere and two more to study Triton, its largest moon. The satellite orbits in the opposite direction from its host planet, is geologically active, and may contain liquid oceans under its icy crust.

The best time to launch such a spaceapparatus - 2030, scientists say. It could fly aboard China National Space Administration's Long March 5 rocket and reach Neptune a decade after passing by the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn.

Studying the ice giants will allow astronomers to better understand how the solar system formed and evolved over 4.5 billion years.

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